The “reboot” has become a fixture in modern popular culture. While the closest metal ever gets to it is the odd reinvention – we’re looking at you Metallica (Lou Reed? Really?). Hollywood and the games industry have been plundering their back catalogues to supplement their lack of imagination for years now. Sometimes it’s a cynical move, designed to ‘mitigate risk’ and play it (very) safe. Occasionally though, magic happens.
Here are five of the games industry’s managed to actually improve.
5. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Does anyone remember the days when Call of Duty games were collections of historic WWII missions? If the answer is no then it’s because Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare happened. Modern Warfare dragged a hood over the head of the Call of Duty series and dragged it kicking, screaming and water-boarded into the 21st century. CoD 4 introduced bombastic and contemporary set-pieces that provided a nod to current global tensions, the rise of terrorism and general sense of looming apocalypse. These included a tense mission sneaking around Pripyat near Chernobyl trying to assassinate a terrorist arms dealer and an attempt to prevent a nuclear detonation in the Middle East (which you failed miserably). Sadly it proved so popular it opened the door for games like Call of Duty: Ghosts and now inevitable anonymous yearly cash-in titles. You win some, you lose some.
4. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Turn-based strategy games are a bit of a snoozer, right? WRONG. XCOM: Enemy Unknown takes a very old-fashioned genre and turns it into one of the most tense, knuckle-biting games of recent years. Imagine playing chess where you can’t see your opponent’s pieces until they move AND start shooting at you. That’s XCOM’s combat missions in a nutshell. It makes for incredibly tense stuff, especially considering that when your soldiers die they die for real. They cannot be resurrected and all of their learned skills are lost forever. It creates a kind of terror and heartbreak which is very rarely achieved in games especially when something as traditionally dry as turn-based strategy. Not bad for a series that’s 20 years old.
3. Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider never used to be brutal. It was brutally hard but never outright brutal. That was until makers Crystal Dynamics decided to reimagine the series for the 2013 reboot. Guiding a young Lara Croft across a mysterious, uncharted Japanese island yielded some of the most horrific death animation scenes ever. What about the time where she gets crushed trying to escape a collapsing cave? Or how about the time she gets skewered through the chin on the rusty wreckage of an old bridge after falling into a river in spate? In harder parts of the game, it became almost fetishistic, watching this young girl die in the same grotesque way, over and over and over again. Oh and the rest of the game was pretty awesome too. You should play it.
2. Metroid Prime Trilogy
Metroid purists were probably about as horrified when they found out that Metroid Prime was to be a 3D first-person game as die-hard Metallica fans were when they heard St Anger. Unlike St Anger, Metroid Prime turned out not to be an utter pile of shit. So much so it became a trilogy. It had all of the things players loved about Super Metroid – the exploration, the cool gear upgrades and the tough bosses – plus it was all wrapped up in gorgeous first-person free-roaming worlds. Unlike many of the console first-person-shooters, it stayed away from the cliches like horror, historical wars and gigantic burly space marines wasting a universe-worth of slimey alien bad guys in favour of a more interesting universe in which ruins and ancient civilisations are everywhere, giving all of the games a real sense of place and purpose within a larger story.
1. Wolfenstein: The New Order
How do you reimagine one of the brashest and ballsiest games of the early nineties and the grandfather of the entire First Person Shooter genre? You turn everything up to eleven of course. Enjoyed stabbing guard dogs with your knife? Then you’ll love taking out cyborg guard dogs with throwing knives. Loved taking on the Robo-Hitler with a massive chaingun? Then you’ll adore fighting Nazis with shotguns akimbo on the moon. All of this happens in an alternate version of the 1960s where the Nazis won WWII. There’s even a cameo appearance by Jimi Hendrix. If that doesn’t make a great reboot, I don’t know what does.